"Grand Declaration of War" marks only Mayhem's second full-length album, but already the band had a lot of reputation to live up to, with the legendary "De Mysteriis" and a slew of EPs of great repute, this album had a lot to live up to. whether it lives up to it's predecessors or not, I'm uncertain, but one thing is definite, It is one of the most bizarre and thoroughly alarming black-metal releases I've ever listened to. The album cover, for starters, is draped in more black-metal badassery than most you're likely to witness.
From a technical standpoint, this album is very strong, with ridiculously good, orgasmically tight drumming, and very crisp and adept guitar work. These both are aided greatly by excellent production, which is high-quality, but doesn't diffuse the black-metal ethos of the work. Maniac's vocals are, interesting, as he produces extremely raspy black metal shriek, and a powerful singing voice, which borders on spoken word. This has the effect, on some songs, of producing something so bizarre that it is impossible not to enjoy, but, on others, it makes Mayhem sound like a satanically-possessed pop-punk band, although, it must be said, this sounds somewhat fascinating.
Another feature of this album, which could be a strength or a weakness dependent on view, is how fantastically bizarre and surreal it is, with lyrical themes which are obviously apocalyptic, but in such an unconventional, nontraditional way, but in a way which seems to work well for the band. Musically too, the album is quite odd, with a lot of electronic effects, including a track which is almost techno-like, in a cold, threatening way.
One of the things I found when listening to the album, however, was that the songs seem to run into one another a bit, and, although they are meant to share a theme, it was still somewhat annoying. Black metal isn't supposed to have hooks, but even with that taken into account, this album seems a little bland and unvaried, although the electronic parts, which I generally don't welcome, actually help with that, by adding a little variety. The album is certainly original however, and I've never heard anything remotely like it before.
I give the album 6/10. It's good, but I can't say that it lived up to what came before it.
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